Our latest running question comes from Pete of Chicago who asks:
"At six feet tall, I've fluctuated up and down between 230 and 300 pounds over the last five years. I run (read: jog) 5K's every now and again. Now in my early thirties, I've been getting a smidgen of recurring knee pain. In general, is there some point where one is too heavy to run? A point at which I should simply focus on my diet (including less craft beer...[sniffle]) and lose weight until it's safer to put the stress of running on my knees? I enjoy running but have become more hesitant recently."
It's great that you've gone at it despite being heavier than a lot of runners, and since you describe the knee pain as "a smidgen", I'd keep my eye on it to make sure it doesn't get worse, but otherwise, I think you can keep on running. But you definately want to get your weight under control, becasue 70+ extra pounds of weight is putting a lot of extra wear and tear on your knees.
I asked Pete more about his knee pain, and he added this:
"The knee pain is not exclusively tied to running. If I run or bike for a while, it will be painful/sore afterwards. If I say, have to stand for 4 hours for a concert, it will be painful/sore afterwards. Then, much less consistently, I sometimes have pain while running, biking, or even something as simple as walking up steep stairs. The pain has not affected my running form at all, so I guess that's good."
I'll let you in on a secret. Plenty of runners go through some low level of pain similar to what you describe. I have knee soreness pretty regularly, and the ball of my right foot sometimes starts hurting on runs of 10 or more miles. Hardly any runner feels like those smiling faces on the cover of Runner's World and other fitness magazines, effortlessly running about in near-orgasmic bliss. Running is hard work that makes body parts sore.
The trick is to make sure the soreness from running isn't so bad that it affects your daily life, or starts affecting your running form. Favoring an injury in your running forms is particularly disastrous, as it often leads to unusual stresses on the legs, creating more injuries elsewhere. Certainly you want to get your diet in order, but if you can to run with a "smidgen" of pain and can both tolerate and manage that pain and still enjoy running, I'd continue to keep at it. Determining the balance between diet, exercise, career, social life, family, and other important things in your life, such as beer, to discover the weight you will be happiest at is one of those big life questions only you can answer.
I'd add that since you are past the age thirty, your body is going to take increasingly longer to recover from the pounding of running, and the joints are simply going to get more brittle, so if you enjoy running and other activities, carrying around those extra pounds are going to take a larger toll as you get older which is something you should factor in.
Finally, runners are constantly breaking down barriers, so if you can overcome the extra weight and still run, congratulations on accomplishing a big part of the battle because you have what it takes to be a runner. There will always be people out there who'll say you're "too old" or "too heavy" to run. Don't ever let one of those people be you.
Got a running question? Submit it to Ramblings of a Beer runner via e-mail or a comment to this post and if I use your question, your reward will be my brilliant response, and something to tell your friends and grandkids for the rest of your life. I'm not a doctor, physical therapist, or coach, nor have played one on TV, but just trying to help fellow runners out, so my advice here for what that's worth.
Sorry, Pete got the last Ortholite insole and currently there's no swag to give you if I use your question.
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